Tutorial: How to convert LR presets to ACR

[This article has been rewritten and published at x=blog 01192009]

I recently stumbled upon a method by which you can import Lightroom develop presets into Adobe Camera RAW for use with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. I’m sure someone has written this up before, but I have never seen it, as I discovered this by chance. In retrospect this seems overly obvious and many of you may know how to do this already, but if not read on.

As a die-hard Lightroom addict I personally never had the need to deal with Adobe Camera RAW. All my trips into Photoshop were initiated from the context menu inside Lightroom. However, I recently finished touching up a RAW file for a colleague and I wanted to have my edits saved with the file. Knowing she does not use Lightroom, as she is an Apple fan running Aperture, I needed to save the Lightroom edits to be rendered in Photoshop. I exported my edited file as a DNG she could open in ACR, then I hopped into Photoshop and opened said file. As I suspected all my edits were intact, they should be as ACR and Lightroom use the same RAW engine. Life was good.

However, looking at my fully edited file in ACR I realized that I could save these develop settings as a preset in ACR, opening the presets I design to a whole new audience. If you follow the steps below, you too will be able to convert any preset you use into an ACR preset.

1. Open Lightroom, and edit any RAW file in your catalog by applying the preset that you wish to convert over to ACR.

2. Once image is satisfactory, right-click (Windows) to bring up the context menu. Choose “Export” in the menu and then the “Export…” option. This brings up the export menu. Setup the export for “Files on Disk”. Choose your export location, set naming for custom name and give the file the name of the preset you are exporting. Most importantly, in the File Setting section, change the format to DNG. This will rewrap your RAW file into DNG and include any modifications currently done to the image (the applied preset).

3. You can now close Lightroom. Open up Photoshop (or Elements), and open the DNG file you just made. ACR will pop up showing your exported file with all edits intact. Take this time to run through ACR’s options and make sure everything looks right. If so, move on to the next step.

4. Now look at the ACR window. To the right, just under the histogram is the buttons controlling ACR adjustment features. Look for the one on the far right with the three sliders depicted on it. Clicking this leads to the Presets menu. Now simply click the small icon in the right corner of that window, it has 3 lines and a small arrow. It opens a menu, in which you will choose “Save Settings”.

5. This will open a dialog with all the controllable options for the preset, and is much like what you see in Lightroom when making or editing presets. Place a check by every option you want the preset to adjust. Uncheck any boxes you want the preset to leave alone. If you check “Apply auto tone adjustments” or “Apply auto grayscale mix” then the preset will override any of your Lightroom edits in those areas. I would not use it unless you know what you are doing.

6. Once done, click on “Save”. Then you are offered a Save dialog box with the filename of the DNG in the window. If you named your DNG for your preset, just click “Save”, if not change the filename and click save. Your preset is saved to the presets dialog in ACR. Open another RAW file and test it.
Now you can use your favorite Lightroom presets inside of Photoshop, or make a preset for a friend with Photoshop but no Lightroom. Let them see what they are missing.

Another benefit I have found to exporting my Lightroom preset to ACR is that I can store them on a USB drive and use them on anyone’s machine. You can copy your ACR .xmp files from this path:

C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Application Data\Adobe\CameraRaw\Settings

Copy the .xmp files to your USB drive. You can them manually apply any preset off the drive. Just click on the menu icon in the presets tab, choose “Load settings…” and point the file browser to your usb drive. Click and go.

I hope this helps anyone who was curious as to how to carry out this process. Hope it helps you and your workflow.

Until next time,


Davide said...

Hi Michael,
thank you for this tip!

It has been very helpful to me :)

Anonymous said...

there is also this:

found at:

Michael W. Gray said...

Use above application at your own risk. I downloaded it and it popped up with a virus. Probably a false positive, but be aware.